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Vancouver Foodster Taco Challenge 2024

This year I was selected as one of the judges for Vancouver Foodster’s popular Taco Challenge. The competition that pits local and willing participants in a hard and soft shell head to head (x7 this year). It is taco versus taco to determine the best of the all. The challenge started timely right on cinco de mayo weekend and will continue until May 26th, 2024. So at the time of this posting, you will have the remaining weekend to try all the participating combatants, then cast your vote for the people’s choice winner.

As a judge, my responsibility is to try them all, critiquing each and giving each a score based on taste (out of 20), originality (out of 10), and presentation (out of 10); for a total of 40 points. And naturally the one with the highest points wins.

The following are all the participating restaurants and foodtrucks, in the order that we visited and tried their taco creation.


75 West Coast Grill
7571 Westminster Hwy, Richmond, BC

75 West Coast Grill is located at the lobby of Vancouver Airport Marriott Hotel and their taco is the Barbacoa Street Taco Trio. It features tender, slow-cooked barbacoa, which is typically large cuts of meat that require long and slower cooking times. The end product is shredded on a soft corn tortilla then topped with crumbled cotiia cheese, roasted red pepper, and a jalapeño corn salsa. Finished off with some pickled red onion and tomatillo salsa verde.

Most impressive was the fact that the tortilla was hand pressed and fried in house, specifically for this competition. A stunning addition to the already colourful and bright presentation, although quite fragile. A fragility furthered by the sitting salsa and pooling sauces with the need to use both hands or opt for a spoon. The tortilla had its own texture, different than the firm kernels of sweet corn and the fresh crisp of the raw green and purple pickled onions. I enjoyed being able to sort through all the ingredients individually in my mouth, an each bite was interesting from first to the last. I just wished that the side of tomatillo salsa offered more kick. It was muted and didn’t add much to the already well conceived taco.

And whenever I am visiting 75 West Grill, I have to get their calamari. An appetizer serving of lightly breaded sliced squid tentacles and rings along side a good mix of fried onions and peppers. The combination made the serving more fulsome, well seasoned with a tasty spicy mayo.

Fun fact: this taco was created by their in-house Chef Matt Berda, who also has a taco stand at the Richmond Night Market this year. Chef Matt works full time at the hotel through the winter months and part time now (weeknights), caring for the taco stand on market days and nights.


KYU Grill Truck
Mobile locations (TBA) schedule can be found on their social media platforms and the street food app

Kyu Grill is known for their Japanese-Hawaiian fusion food truck. An all black kitchen on wheel with blue frothy waves and gentle cherry blossoms painted on.

This is their Lamb Baaaaa-rria Taco and each order comes with 3 Mexican Style Baria lamb style Tacos. This is lamb meat braised until they tender, and literally fall off the bone, then seasoned with their fusion style of Mexican Herbs and spices and served within a crispy fried corn tortilla. This is all topped with diced white and red onion, cilantro, tajin spice mix, and cheesy mozzarella.

Where the filling and flavours are familiar, and similar to other birria tacos that I have; this is the only crispy taco in the competition. Dense with lamb meat packed tight, the vegetables and herbs offer much needed freshness. And the hot broth on the side for dipping keeps things warm and flavourful without losing all that delicious crunch.

Overall tasty and I ate every last bit, fully appreciating the side of crunchy chips drizzled over with a spicy mayo sauce, acting as a nice break in between bites. However, I didn’t get as much of the fusion I was expecting or any Japanese/Hawaiian influence given the truck’s name and reputation.


Vancouver Aquarium
845 Avison Way, Vancouver, BC

We then got a chance to visit to aquarium for the next taco, available at their in house cafe, with admission. This is their pun-ny submission the “FIN-tastic taco” (they have to tie it to the aquarium some how).

Created by the aquarium’s Executive Chef David Lee, inspired by West Coast flavours. Tempura Pacific cod, crispy pickled ginger, and spicy slaw; all wrapped in a warm flour tortilla.

It looks and reads like a simple and ordinary taco, but what sets it apart is the topping of the tempura pickled ginger. I have never had ginger like this before, the texture coupled with the tangy taste is the same reason why deep fried pickles are so popular. It gives you the heaviest hitting taste and texture together, and it dominates in a good day. The fish played second fiddle with its even breading. I just could have used more spicy mayo, or a dish of it on the side to have with the taco and conjunction with the collection of carrot and celery sticks.


Mi Casa Mexicana
2015 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC

From water side to roof top, we then stopped by Mi Casa’s second floor restaurant in Kitsilano. Here they were offering a Taco Duo for the competition. This was aptly named, given both shrimp and fish make an appearance together on the plate. Two tacos, both battered, one shrimp, one fish. The best of both worlds on their own warm 7-inch tortilla, topped with red cabbage, pico-de-gallo, chipotle-mayo, pickled ginger, and lime.

The taco was pretty common, nothing I haven’t seen before. Layers of crispiness from the breaded seafood to the raw slaw. Generous with two pieces of shrimp and a large slice of cod. There was just enough sauce and salsa to flavour, but not to make things soggy. Although there was so much shredded vegetable that it was hard to keep within the taco shell, and after a bite or two, we had to resort to eating with knife and fork, which does take away from the hands-on taco experience.

The flavours did grow one tone towards the end, but luckily the staff brought over table condiments for your to self-squeeze, between mild and hot salsa.

With our meal we also ordered two of their margaritas. You have your choice of flavour and type of spirit. We went for the strawberry and spicy pineapple, both with mezcal; but we couldn’t taste it past the sugary syrups and the spice of the jalapeño from the latter.


Luz Tacos
1201 Commercial Way #318, Squamish, BC

Our taco judging duties then took us all the way to Squamish to Geo Cider to try their Stuffed Poblano Taco, and the only vegetarian option competing this year. This is a battered poblano pepper stuffed with creamy melted cheese, served on a corn tortilla, over a bed of tender cooked rice. All topped with a mild morita chile salsa, crumbled feta cheese, red onions, cilantro, and toasted sunflower seeds. And as a bonus, you also get a scoop, of refried Mexican beans on the side, topped with warm, fresh corn tortilla chips for dipping, plus a side of tomato seasoned rice.

The pepper was well battered and fried, making it less clean and more satisfying. The rice ensured that this vegetable taco didn’t feel flimsy, but had some substance to it, alongside the thick breading and the starchy base. And then the sunflower seeds added protein and crunch. I also really liked the beans as a spread, it wasn’t ashy or gritty, but a nice addition to everything else.

Overall this was a well conceived and well balanced vegetarian option, but I would have liked their jalapeño popper as the pepper or choice (I got a taste of it on the same day, and though that would have made for a more iconic taco). This and having the seasoned rice in place of the plain steamed one in the taco. As is, it was best with some of their in house made habanero hot sauce, as it offered a hint of acidity that was missing.


2815 Main Street, Vancouver, BC

At Maizal RMF their taco was the Taco Camarindo, to be ordered by the unit. Tempura battered prawn, with a tamarind guajillo salsa and mango relish.

All set on two double stacked, house made, pressed and seared to order, dual coloured corn tortilla. They were beautiful and made you feel like you got double the amount of food, especially given how much topping was loaded on each. You can build a second taco with all that fell out of the first.

As for the taco as a whole I liked the lesser seen combination of cheese and tempura together, finished off with a hard and crunchy cylinder of cheese tuille. The latter most was nice accent piece that I wanted more of, at least one for every possible bite. We sadly did not get any of the tamarind or mango we were expecting. None of their distinct tangy and sweet fruity flavours. In fact we had to grab a couple of their help yourself hot sauces to add some kick to this.


Lucha Libre Truck
Mobile locations (TBA) schedule can be found on their social media platforms and the street food app

And last but not least we also drove to Port Moody to meet up with the Lucha Libre Mexican Food Truck parked on brewery row. Their black truck with excited hot pink speech bubbles was easy to spot.

Here they have their Mascara Sagrada Taco. An order comes with two 6″ corn tortilla, each with a fried cheese base topped with slow-cooked pulled pork in “pasilla” and “guajillo” adobo with a cilantro sauce.

This was the most authentic of all the tacos, gristly street style with so much character. Plenty of shredded pork balanced by fresh onions, and your choice of salsas. The thick layer of melted cheese was the highlight for me. Not gooey, but congealed and sharp.


In closing, you only have this weekend to try all these tacos and I suggest that you do for a delicious time.

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